In his book What on Earth Am I Here for?, Rick
Warren reminds us that we are called to belong, not just believe. He says our
relationship with Christ is personal but not private.
This kind of fellowship
is called koinonia. Koinonia is a
Greek word that occurs 20 times in the Bible. Koinonia’s primary meaning is
“fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The first occurrence of koinonia is
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to
the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
We want to experience koinonia
in our relationship with others. The best way for Christians to experience koinonia is through belonging to a church.
Let’s look at the
importance of being a member of a church family as Warren tells us.
A church family
identifies you as a genuine believer.
It is a witness to the world
A church family moves you
out of self-centered isolation.
It is in the family of believers that we experience unity
and a connectedness. We
that we are not alone.
A church family helps you
develop spiritual muscle.
Being a part of a church family helps us to be in
relationship with other believers.
The New Testament uses
the phrases “one another” and “each other” over 50 times: pray for each other,
encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other,
teach each other, accept each other, honor each other, bear each other’s
burdens, forgive each other, submit to each other, be devoted to each other,
love each other. This is done through the church, the body of believers.
Real fellowship among
believers is experiencing life together.This kind of fellowship is not superficial. It is genuine,
heart-to-heart, gut-level sharing. This happens in group settings when people
develop trust.Groups best experience fellowship
– koinonia – when… the experience is mutual, there is sympathy, and there is
I am so blessed to lead
two women’s groups that experience koinonia:
the Women of Worth (WOW) group and the
Mom2Mom group. These groups love each other, have shared experiences,
sympathize and empathize with each other, and extend mercy and grace to each
other. In the world of reality TV it
seems expected that women will argue, call names, live in jealousy, and spew
venom, it is refreshing to have 175 girlfriends in these two groups who show
Christ’s love to each other and to others. This demonstration of love is real;
it is koinonia love and friendship.
Thanks be to God for these women!
To hear my 60 minute audio lesson on fellowship, click here:
What gives us pleasure?I find
pleasure in looking into my grandchildren’s sweet faces and seeing those big
blue happy eyes. I recently experience pleasure listening to an orchestra concert
and heard plenty of old tunes from the big band era.
God created us for his pleasure. Our first purpose in life it to bring
enjoyment to God. Bringing pleasure to God is called “worship.”Anything we do that brings pleasure to God is
an act of worship. Rick Warren tells us, “The most common mistake Christians make in
worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God.”
A. W. Tozer, once regarded as a prophet of the 20th
century, said, “True worship is to be so personally and hopelessly in love with
God, that the idea of a transfer of affection never even remotely exists.” So…how do we do a good job of pleasing
God and making him smile?
“He takes pleasure in those that honor
him; in those who trust in his constant love.” Psalm 147:11 (TEV)
We please God by what we do and not only
by what we believe.” James 2:24
A.We please God
when we give him our whole being – our heart and soul and mind and strength.
“Love the Lord you God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
We please him when we obey wholeheartedly…when we love him supremely….
When we trust him completely…when we praise and thank him…when we use our
abilities…when we enjoy his creation…when we use kind words…when we tell the
truth…when we encourage others.
Question: “How much pleasure is
God getting out of my life?”
B.The heart of
worship is when we surrender all of ourselves to him.
A.W. Tozer said, “The reason why many are still troubled, still
seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come
to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering
with God’s work within us.”
We can’t fully surrender until we come to the end of ourselves. We
fully surrender when we rely on God to work things out instead of trying to
manipulate others, control situations, and force our plan. Letting go and
letting God have ALL is our challenge.
Surrender yourselves to the Lord, and
wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7a
Question: "How much have I surrendered to God?"
It’s comforting to know that we are asked to surrender to someone who
wants to be our best friend.
C.We please God
when we make him our best friend.
We make Jesus our best friend by getting to know him. We read of him
and we talk with him. We carry on a constant dialogue with him. What are the
characteristics of a best friend relationship? We trust our best friend. We
share secrets with them. We are honest with them. We often indulge them. We
talk kindly to them and they talk kindly to us. We say good things about them. We
praise them. We introduce them to others.
That only happens when we spend
time with them. Jesus wants to be that kind of friend. How can we worship him
in our friendship? All that we say, think, feel and do throughout the day will
be an act of worship toward our best friend.
Question: "What kind of friend am I to God?"
Real personal worship characteristics
A.Comes from a
desire to give God our heart and soul and mind and strength
B.Comes from full
surrender to God
building a relationship with God.
To hear an audio of my lesson, Real Worship, click below:
If your life were a
metaphor, what would it be? Forest Gump’s mama taught him, “Life is a box of
chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” How do you describe life?
Is it a game? A dream? A cabaret? A dance? A battle? A mystery? How we view
life speaks volumes about how we shape our decision and what we think, feel,
say, and do? In his book What on Earth Am I Here For? Rick Warren
tells us the Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God’s view of life:
Life is a test, life is a
trust, and life is a temporary assignment.
Life on earth is a Test.
All of life is a
test.We are always being tested.
Everything is important because everything we think, say, and do reveals our
character.Our responses to people and
our experiences reveal who we are.When
we experience problems, conflict, success, sickness, we have opportunities to
reveal character, andwe either show
that we are walking closer to Christ or moving away. Perhaps the most important
test comes when we don’t feel close to God – like those days when we’re in our
cave of sadness or anger or depression.Everything
is significant.Every moment of life is
a growth opportunity.Can we consider
our obstacles as opportunities? It’s good to remember that god wants us to “pass”
the tests of life, and He promises to give us the strength to endure them.
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to
people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested
beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will
give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out. I
Corinthians 10:13 (GNT)
Life on Earth Is a Trust
God has entrusted us with
gifts and resources.He has given us all
things to use wisely. Remember, he has given each of us our garden to tend. God gave Adam and Eve the original garden. I’m
sure he showed them the beautiful rivers, and streams and trees and flowers. He
pointed to the sun and said, “I give you warmth of the sun during the day.” And
then he said, “I give the cool of the evenings.” “I give you each other to love
and care for. And go out and populate the earth and then care for the children
and all mankind. But… see that tree over there? That’s the one thing you cannot
have. That is for me.You may not have
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.But enjoy everything else.I set
that boundary for your good and my glory.” And what did Adam and Eve do? They crossed the
boundary. God wanted them to take care of all the “stuff” of the earth and
leave the one thing for him but they messed up his “trust system.”
Do we care properly for
what gives us? Do we properly use our skills, and talents, and personality, and
gifts, and finances and bodies and time and relationships? He’s entrusted us
with them. Life is a trust. We are managers of all that God trusts us with.
Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. I
Life on Earth Is a Temporary Assignment Our life is short, we know nothing at all;
we pass like shadows across the earth. Job 8:9
compared with eternity, life is brief. I know that some days seem like an
eternity, don’t they!! Are you
familiar with the old gospel hymn, “This World Is Not My Home”?
world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
We really are just
visiting earth. We’re temporary residents on earth. We’re citizens of heaven.
The Bible warns us not to get too attached to what’s around us because it is
Those in frequent contact with the exciting
things the world offers should make good use of their opportunities without
stopping to enjoy them; for the world in its present form will soon be gone. I
Corinthians 7:31 (TLB)
C.S. Lewis said, “All
that is not eternal is eternally useless.” How does our living today
change when we begin to consider our permanent residence more important than
our earthly one?
When we daily focus on
life as test, a trust, and our temporary residence, we begin to bring more
glory to God and greater blessings for us.
To hear the related lesson I taught from What on Earth Am I Here For? click here.
giving is a Christmas tradition ever since the Wise Men went bearing gifts to
the baby Jesus.
all may have gift giving traditions in your family. We do. The whole family –
all 20 of us – go to my parents house on Christmas morning as we have for my
whole life. We eat breakfast -pretty
much the same menu for 60 years. Egg dish, biscuits, ham, fruit, something
sweet and the Le Conte Sunrise, a fruit slushy. We hear the Christmas story and
then in descending order of age, we descend down the stairs to the basement,
pausing to have our picturemade on the
last step and enter Christmas wonderland. The gifts are stacked in the exact
same place as the year before and the year before, etc. We each know exactly
where to go. Then we begin the opening. Some years we try to bring more order
than others, but with the tribe increasing, it takes too long to wait on every
person to open a gift before moving on to the next. If family members are
getting the same gift, we make sure they open them at the same time. It’s all
complete organized chaos and a whole lot of joy. Then we all simmer down and
watch the matriarch and patriarch open their gifts. There are always a lot of
laughs and some tears, for someone always manages to give a framed photo of a
momentous occasion and we all ooh and aah and snap the cameras. Yes, gift
giving is an important part of celebrating in my family.
Giving is important because of the effort, love and
time it takes to make or purchase an appropriate gift. And in wrapping, mailing
or delivering it! There is usually a lot of love wrapped up with gift giving!
Some of us enjoy giving even more than receiving. We rejoice in our ability to
create little blessings in people’s lives, by the things we are able to do for
also need to make a Spiritual Christmas Gift List. Who are the people that you
need to show the love of Jesus to during this season? Are there people you come
across in your everyday life that need a little dose of Jesus?
The women of Christmas – Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna –
offered spiritual gifts.
we close, let’s look at the gifts our women of Christmas gave.
gift was joy. Elizabeth was joyful in her own news and in Mary’s news. It’s
easy to be joyful when good things happen to us but how joyful are we with the
good news of others? Elizabeth stayed
joyful even when she didn’t understood how in her old age she could bear a
child. She stayed joyful when Mary arrived to share her own good news.
Mary’s gift was faith. Mary didn’t understand the news the angel brought. How
could a virgin conceive.However,
because of her faith she accepted what she was told and was honored to be a
part of God’s big plan.
gift was gratitude. Anna was an old and lonely widow living in the temple. She
spent her time worshipping God day and night and waiting for the redemption of
Israel. She responds to the visit of the baby Jesus with thanksgiving. She’s
thankful even after many years of hardship and loneliness.
pay attention to the gifts these women brought.. This Christmas, I pray that
you use the gifts these women have brought: the joy of Elizabeth, the faith of
Mary, and the thanksgiving of Anna.
us pray that God will show us the individuals in our world who still need the
gift of Jesus. Let’s add them to our spiritual Christmas List.
Mary and Joseph
had a life interrupted, so to speak. This happily engaged couple must have been
in the middle of wedding plans when their lives took a sudden turn. You know
what it’s like to be engaged - picking out the location, the cake, the guest
list, and making all the other hundreds decisions betrothed couples make.Then…the angel visits. Suddenly, their lives
center on very different decisions. Joseph finds himself with an unmarried but
pregnant fiancée. His initial knee jerk reaction was to quietly divorce her. He
could have embarrassed her, disgraced her, or let her be killed…but he
“considered these things.” I’m sure there were many potential joy stealers in
Nazareth waiting to pounce on any bit of scandal! Joseph listened to the angel
and considered God’s opinion before making his final decision. The gospel
writer Luke tells us Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. Luke
God when his life was interrupted.
So what do you do
when your plans get interrupted? Who do you consult when your plans are dashed,
your ideas are nixed, when you experience disappointments, defeat or failure.
Whose opinion do you consider when people attempt to bring disgrace to you? The
naysayers and joy stealers? When life is interrupted, it’s important to consult
God, the one who came to bring joy, not steal it.
Not only were
there plans interrupted but Mary and Joseph had to deal with the reactions of
the townspeople. I’m sure there were the gawkers, the critics, and the judgers.
How about those who might have even be envious? These people would make many
attempts to steal the joy right out from under Mary and Joseph. We’ve all
experienced joy stealers.Desperate
people take desperate measures to steal our joy. God created the beautiful deep
blue oceans for us to enjoy and to provide us food, yet sharks still swim in
the ocean. And so it is with people. God created people to do good and to love
each other, but there are still “sharks” among us. What’s so sad is these joy
stealers in Joseph and Mary’s lives probably believed they were doing and
saying God’s work and righteous Jews.Self-righteous, sanctimonious people sat in judgment on the work God
himself was doing. You know what is wonderful to think about? Mary and Joseph
had a God who gives joy and doesn’t steal it. They both trusted God. And think
about this, Mary and Joseph had the truth on their side. They lived in the
truth, an important lesson when someone tries to steal our joy with lies and
Do you think Mary
and Joseph recalled the words of Samuel when they were dealing with joy
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he
drew me out of deep waters. 18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from
my foes, who were too strong for me. 19 They confronted me in the day of my
the Lord was my support. 20 He brought me out into a spacious place; he
rescued me because he delighted in me. 2
Samuel 22:17-20 New International
What can we do
when our plans are interrupted and when people try to steal our joy?
wisdom, guidance, and peace. Sing prayer of praise to God in the middle of the
Mary sang, My soul glorifies the Lord and
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Luke 1:46
the information. Look for the truth of the situation. Deal with what you know
to be true.Consider these questions: are
you dealing with a life changing interruption or a momentary bump in the road?
Is this interruption a true catastrophe or are you dealing with catastrophic
thinking? Look at the reality. Find where God is in the situation. Live in the
truth of what you know and not in the speculation of the unknown.
Mary and Joseph
trusted the angel. They believed that God could do a miracle through the power
of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure they had many discussions about the unlikelihood
that Mary had been unfaithful, but they lived in the facts of the situation and
trusted God with the details.
Properly React After praying and
processing what you know to be true, be intentional, assertive, positive, and
proactive in your response. Avoid knee jerk, negative actions that you will
regret. Joseph initially
had a very human knee jerk reaction. He wanted to completely distance himself
from Mary. However, after processing what he knew to be true, he properly
reacted. He acted as God would have him act. Providence
God is in control. God is in control. He is waiting to give his love and
support and his peace in the interruptions. There’s an old gospel song that my sister
and I sing out every once in a while called, “God’s still running this
world.”When we have doubts,
interruptions, or come across joy stealers, we can find comfort in knowing that
God is in control. We can lean into him.
Just as Mary and Joseph experienced interruptions, so do we. Our lives don’t
always go as expected either. There are people who want to interrupt us and
those who want to steal our joy. When they come, let’s give them to God and
praise him in the middle of them. God will work things out.
The gospel writer Luke uses the story of Elizabeth and
Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist, to set the stage for the birth of
Jesus. This couple had lived a long and happy life together seemingly content
even though they didn’t have the child they longed for. Elizabeth’s barrenness is
seen as a disgrace and the couple endure years of people attempting to dishonor
them or shun them. However, they are more concerned about what God thought than
what others thought - a good foundation
for a marital relationship, by the way!
Then… Gabriel is visited by the angel Gabriel who tells him
Elizabeth will bear a son who will be great in the sight of the Lord and who
will prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Unfortunately, in the most
momentous encounter of his life, Zechariah doubts. As a consequence, he is
struck speechless. Luke tells us,
Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into
seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she
exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” Luke 1:
For the entire pregnancy Zechariah is speechless. However,
he remains faithful to God. After the birth, at the circumcision ceremony, Zechariah confirms the name when he writes
it on the tablet. “His name is John.” Instantly, John could speak again. His
first words were of praise to God.
Elizabeth and Zechariah serve as heroes of the faith. Zechariah
represents those who may doubt God for a moment but are willing to obey. Elizabeth
embodies those who remain faithful and praise God even when they don’t
understand his workings. Even though
they felt hopeless, God was waiting for the right time to encourage them and
take away their disgrace. We see through them that God can do great things to
anyone who allows God to work within.
This is the most exciting thought for me – God is working
behind the scenes on our behalf too even when we don’t realize it. Imagine all
the days, months, years of forethought that went in to choosing Elizabeth and Zechariah
to give birth to John the Baptist the man who would prepare the way for the
Messiah. Imagine all the years people had attempted to bring shame to their
name, to dishonor them, to discredit them because they were childless. All
along, God was working behind the scenes on their behalf. Elizabeth and
Zechariah would have known the words of the prophet Jeremiah: God “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope
and a future.” He had a plan and purpose for their lives and when
the time came for him to reveal it, they were found faithful.
Elizabeth and Zechariah offer us encouragement when we face
doubt or feel hopeless or when people attempt to disgrace us. This righteous couple
trusted in God and held on to each other during the times when people must have
scorned them. And when the pronouncement came from the angel that Elizabeth
would give birth at an old age and then she appeared in public for the first
time, I’m sure the naysayers and doubters attempted to stir up a scandal. But through
it all Elizabeth praised God and proclaimed, “The Lord has done this for me.
How kind the Lord is.”
Let’s remember that God is working behind the scenes on our
behalf. God wants us to know our purpose and to live an
exceedingly abundant life. When we face doubt or feel hopeless or when people
attempt to disgrace us, let’s remember that God is faithful. In order to live
in our purpose and enjoy God’s abundance we need to do as Elizabeth did: trust
and obey. The old hymn tells us, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To
be happy in Jesus we must trust and obey.”
For more of my lesson on Women of
Christmas: Elizabeth, click the audio link below.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I
thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the
ways of childhood behind me. I Corinthians 13:11
This passage calls on us
to put away three childish behaviors: talking like a child, thinking like a
child, and reasoning like a child. In our relationships do we fall back into
childish habits of speaking, thinking, and reasoning?
How does a child speak? A
child speaks to ask for things. A child speaks about wanting and wishing. A child whines, pouts, and shouts.
Strategies for Mature Speaking
guard over your mouth – Set a
guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my
lips. Psalm 141:3 (NIV) Take
control of what I say, O Lord,and guard my lips. Psalm
141:3 (NLT) 2.Mind the gap – Use the time between the
stimulus and your response to consider your words. 3.Don’t
engage in verbal battle “Wise
men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say
something” (Plato). 4.Lower the
volume: You can’t carry on an argument in a whisper. 5.Visualize
your response before you respond. Picture it in action and then in the
aftermath, ask, “Is this the response I want?” and “Is this the response Christ
wants?” 6. Engage
in effective communication - Communicate exactly what you are feeling: “Please
listen to me. Please understand why I’m feeling this way. Can you do me the
favor of being patient?” 7.Take a break -If you need to cool off before attempting a conversation, give yourself
a time out. Temporarily disengage. Be sure to re-engage and communicate in a
considerate, positive, assertive tone..
How does a child think?
The child thinks:
not my problem. ·I
want that—give it to me. ·I’m
not fair. ·If
I cry, I’ll get my way. ·If
I wait long enough, someone else will do it. ·Rules
apply to everyone but me.
In The Child’s Conception of the
World (1965) Jean Piaget described how children think.Children often jump to conclusions and over
generalize because they have limited information. They play the blame game. They focus on self.
They make mountains out of molehills. They live so much in the moment that they
block out past positive experiences when they are in a bad situation. Many adults
never grow out of this childish mindset.
for Mature Thinking
–Deliberately choose to think positively and assertively. This is a pro-active
Ugly thoughts = ugly action
Positive thoughts = positive actions
Intentional thoughts=intentional actions
When the bad thought enters your mind, replace it by
following these steps. 1.Rename
it – Tell yourself this thought is a negative, bad, ungodly, unkind, etc.
it – Focus on a positive or distracting thought 3.Redirect
your actions to something uplifting, fun, or engaging.
Finally Paul urges us to
get rid of childish reasoning. How does a child reason? It may sound like this:
“I’ve done something I was not supposed to do. But, if Mom and Dad don’t find
out, I can get away with it.So…I don’t
feel bad about it. I can pull off a fast one!”
What is reasoning? - the process of thinking about something in a
logical way in order to form a conclusion or judgment. The child reasons based on
his perception at the moment. Children
don’t reason well because their brain is not even fully formed. The pre-fontal
cortex where judgment and self-control are located is not fully formed until
Strategies for Mature Reasoning
·Avoid rushing to a decision. ·Establish and verify facts of the
situation/relationship/arrangement ·Consider the consequences of actions. ·Determine a logical response
Speaking, Thinking, Reasoning Like an Adult
As a child grows, his
egocentric circle changes. He becomes less self-absorbed and more other absorbed.
The more mature we become in our faith, the less self absorbed we become. The passage
in I Corinthians is a good reminder to put away childish things in our
To hear my audio
recording “Responding to a Biblical Fool,” click below.